The Hated Sect
A Sermon by Rev. F. M. Barker
of Goochland, Virginia
The Baptist Preacher, 1855
“But we desire to hear of thee what thou thinkest; for as concerning this sect, we know that everywhere it is spoken against." - Acts xxviii:22.
How wonderful are the ways of Providence! It is through a train of events, dark and mysterious, that God often answers prayer, and accomplishes his purposes. "I appeal unto Caesar,” (Acts xxv:11,) is the magnanimous language of the heroic Paul, when perceiving that justice had forsaken the Caesarean throne before which he was arraigned. By this appeal, his long cherished desire and ardent prayers to preach the gospel of Christ in the proud capital of the world, are to be granted.
On the third day after his arrival at Rome, he called the chief of the Jews together, and when they were come together, he said unto them: “For this cause, therefore, have I called for you, to see you, and to speak with you, because that for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain." And they said unto him, “We neither received letters out of Judea concerning thee, neither any of the brethren that came showed or spake any harm of thee.” “But we desire to hear of thee what thou thinkest; for as concerning this sect, we know that everywhere it is spoken against." Paul on a set day most willingly complied with their request, and spoke “from morning till evening.” Would that his speech of exposition and defence were recorded. Permit us, however, to attempt a response. The sect here said to have been “everywhere” maligned, were the early followers of Jesus, "called Christians first in Antioch." (Acts xi:26.)
Their origin was then but recent. - Perhaps thirty years would have covered their entire duration. They were emphatically a new sect, differing from all that had ever preceded them. Their origin is to be found in that people prepared
for a formation state by John the Baptist. As it is written in the prophets, “Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.'"- (Mark i:2, 3.)
Mark informs us that the ministry of John was “the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God," and the Saviour himself confirms it. "The law and the prophets were until John; since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it." - (Luke xvi:16.)
The peculiar and distinguishing ensign given to this new sect, is the divine rite of baptism. Hence John, by divine authority, proclaimed it new from heaven, and " did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.” - (Mark i:4.)
The adorable Redeemer, about to enter upon his public ministry, to authenticate the divine character of his mission, to confirm and honor this new ordinance as a Christian institution, and to prefix his own example to the command which he was soon to give to his disciples, himself "was baptized of John in Jordan." - (Mark i:9.) "And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water; and, lo! the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting upon him; and, lo! a voice from heaven saying, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." - (Mathew iii:16, 17.)
Having thus been declared to be the promised Messiah, he now proceeds to gather his disciples from among those prepared by John; and both he and John proclaim the reign of heaven, and with entire unity of design, both administer the new and impressive rite of baptism to their converts. Of this sect such briefly was its inception and first step of progression. “Its visible, organic formation, occurred in an upper room” in Jerusalem, shortly after the resurrection and ascension of Messiah. “The number of names together were about an hundred and twenty.” - (Acts 1:15.) This organization was the first Christian church the world ever saw. It differed as widely from the Jewish theocracy or commonwealth, as the poles are asunder. Nothing but an inextricable difficulty, a ruinous dilemma, could have originated the preposterous idea of their identity. The whole
pedo-baptistic argument for identity, involves almost as many absurdities as it has sentences. They are two different developments of two separate and distinct covenants. The one the covenant of circumcision, which was engrossed in the Siniatic covenant, which is the covenant of law. The other the covenant of grace, which is the gospel covenant.* Hence says the prophet, “Behold, the days come, saith the Loid, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not according to the covenant which I made with their fathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt.” “In that he saith, a new covenant; he hath made the first old.” (Hebrews viii) The old covenant was the covenant of the "Jewish church,” falsely so called. While the new covenant, which is the gospel, is the covenant of the Christian church. In the former, flesh and blood only were required in order to membership. In the latter, faith in Christ and a new heart are the unyielding prerequisites. Never was there a more unscriptural and vulnerable position assumed than that of the identity of the Jewish nation and the Christian church. This first Christian church at Jerusalem, formed as it was by the inspired apostles, is the model for all succeeding ages. As this pattern is ignored or abandoned, so is the great law of Christ contravened. All subsequent New Testament organizations conform most strictly to this model. Whatever feature or principle, therefore, not prominently developed in this prototype, we shall find in some of its facsimiles.
Of whom were the New Testament churches composed? - We have before remarked that flesh and blood were the only prerequisites to membership in the Jewish politico, ecclesiastical community. But these are of no account in the gospel dispensation. John, in his preparation work, emphatically denied all hereditary claims to the immunities of the new organization. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, “O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth, therefore, fruits meet for repentance, and think not to say within yourselves,
we have Abraham to our father; for I say unto you that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now in this new kingdom, (which is not of this world,) also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees.” (Mathew iii:7.) Alas! that these false and unworthy claims have been revived; that these Jewish sprouts should have sprung up to disfigure and infect the garden of the Lord! That the apostolic churches were composed of such, and such only, as were baptized on a profession of faith in Christ, is clearly manifest from the commission: “Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you,” &c. This is the inflexible and only law of Messiah's kingdom. What are its requirements? Dr. Geo. Campbell, the distinguished biblical critic of the Presbyterian church, gives the following answer: “There are manifestly three things which our Lord here distinctly enjoins his apostles to execute with regard to the nations, to wit: [This computer does not translate foreign words]; that is, to convert them to the faith, to initiate the converts into the church by baptism, and to instruct the baptized in all the duties of the Christian life.”* This is high authority, and is what every honest intelligent man must admit. Be it remembered, that the order in which these several duties stand to each other is as imperative as the commission itself. To invert the order, therefore, to baptize and then convert, is to destroy the law, and reflect upon the wisdom and authority of the lawgiver. The accession to the newly constituted church on the day of Pentecost, and the subsequent course of the apostles, were in strict accordance with the exposition of the commission, as given by Dr. Campbell, and reduce it to a certainly, that the churches of this primitive sect contained such only as were baptized upon a profession of faith in the ascended Messiah. On that memorable occasion, Peter first taught or preached the gospel. The people heard, were convicted, and cried out, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” Then Peter said unto them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins." “Then they that gladly received his word were baprized;
* Campbell, Four gospels, 2 Vols., p. 150.
* NOTE. - The writer learns with pleasure that Dr. Howell has just published a book on “The Covenants.” He has not seen it, but from the character of his other works, he thinks he can safely recommend it to all who may wish information upon this important subject.
and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.” - (Acts ii:37.)
Were any baptized and admitted to church membership but believers? Not one. "Then they that gladly received his word, were baptized” and added unto the church - three thousand in number. Philip goes down to Samaria, and, according to the law, first taught or preached the gospel. "And when they believed Philip, preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, They were baptized, both men and women." - (Acts viii:12.) "What doth hinder me to be baptized?" "If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayst.” - (viii:36.) - Can any man forbid water, (not “TO BE BROUGHT,” as we sometimes see it written, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we.” (Acts xi:47.) The question is settled. There is not a baptism mentioned in the New Testament, in the narration of which, something is not either said or implied, that the persons baptized were believers. There is not a single precept or example of "infant baptism” in the Bible. In relation to it, silence, as profound as the grave, reigns through the entire volume of inspiration. “Infant baptism is an error from beginning to end; corrupt in theory, and corrupting in practice; born in superstition, cradled in fear, nursed in ignorance, supported by fraud, and spread by force; doomed to die in the light of historical investigation, and its very memory to be loathed in all future ages by a disabused church."* In a foot note on the same page, the distinguished author says, “ In no boastful spirit, but in the spirit of a martyr before God-stung by the solemn conviction of duty, after thirty-five years of earnest and impartial investigation on this subject, to speak out “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth” - we nail these THESES to the door of every pedo-Baptist church in christendom, and challenge all the Christian scholarship of the age not to ignore, evade, or deny them, but to face the inevitable trial, summon the witnesses, sift the evidence, and if it can, disprove all or any one of them. And may God help the right,” - to which we sincerely respond, Amen!
As to the modal action of baptism, as practiced by this sect, it was clearly immersion. Of this, the word baptize,
* Prel. Hist. Essay to Bapt. Martyrs, by J. N. Brown, page 13.
invariably used to describe the ordinance, is proof positive. Every inducement possible, even monied premiums, have been offered to our opponents for a single instance in which the word clearly and properly means to sprinkle or to pour. But in every case their effort has been a most signal failure.
The stratagem of going down into the water, and then kneeling to receive the affusion - the baptismal plates in which the candidate is represented as standing to the waist in water while being sprinkled - bespeak the fearful apprehensions of that plainness with which even the English version teaches immersion. The church organizations of this sect were numerous. Thirty-five different churches are mentioned in the New Testament, besides others included in the general designation, “Churches of Asia," "churches of Macedonia," &c. Paul, in his epistle to the Colossians, mentions four different churches, whose localities were only five miles apart. The improvement upon this divine pattern of having several hundred local societies consolidated into one great church-establishment, or hierarchy, was not then made.
Each of these churches was an independent religious republic. - There is not an instance on divine record where the right of one church to exercise jurisdiction over another church is either claimed or acknowledged. Nor is it any where intimated that any man, or set of men, exercised such control. All legislative and judicial claims over these little republics are a usurpation, and were unknown to the apostles. Each of these independent communities possessed and exercised the right of electing its own officers, receiving and excommunicating members, and managing its own affairs. These truths, denied and ignored though they have been, are spread out upon almost every page of the inspired record.* This sect knew nothing of any superior orders in the ministry. With them there was no such prolific source of clerical restlessness and ambition! They knew no such detestable ecclesiastical tyranny! It remained for a subsequent darker age to disclose this grand stratagem of Satan, this incipiency of popery! They knew of only two officers in a Christian church,bishop or elder, and deacon. Bishop and elder are different appellations which they applied to the same officer. This is evident from the import of the terms themselves, and those passages in which the apostles use
* See Acts i:15, 26; vi:1, 6; 1 Corinthians v:4, 5, 13; 2 Corinthians ii:6.
them as convertible. The same individuals called in Acts 20 and 17 “elders of the church,” are in the 28th verse denominated “overseers” or bishops, "the term bishop indicating the nature of the office to which elders are called." The same interchange is made in other places, but is hid from the English reader by the translators. Such are some of the peculiar characteristics of the pestiferous sect which, eighteen hundred years ago, was “everywhere spoken against.” What has become of that sect? Though frequently driven by sword and fire into the mountain fastnesses, and “dens and caves of the earth," thank God it yet lives. Nor has there ever been a time since its origin when it did not live! Of all the numerous discordant sects of the present age, can any one fail to recognize and identify this ancient sect? Breathe softly! We seem to hear the universal, though very reluctant response, “Baptists! BAPTISTS !!" Verily, brethren, this sect are your veritable and venerable ancestors! We chant the name of no reformer, do homage to no being but Christ Jesus, as the founder of the Baptist churches! We lay no claim to the apostolical succession of "the invisible gift!" And if the Episcopal church have it, she received it through the filthy hands of the Romish church, the mother of harlots!” We do claim, however, apostolic succession in faith, principles and practice. We do not say that this sect were called Baptists, but that they were what would now be called Baptists. The name is of but little importance. A rose is a rose, all over the world, though called by as many different names as there are soils or climates. It is an important fact, settled and conceded, that from the days of the apostles to the present, there have been those always disconnected from the Romish apostacy who rejected infant baptism, with all its kindred dogmas, practiced immersion as the only baptism, and maintained a democratic church polity. As early as the middle of the third century, a noble dissent was made from the community of Rome for the sake of purity of doctrine and membership. These dissenters adopted the name Cathari, or Puritanithe, pure, but were called by their enemies Novatians. From an invariable habit of baptizing those who came over to them from the corrupt party, they were the first who were called Anabaptists.
In his ecclesiastical researches Robinson says: “All over
the empire Puritan churches were constituted, and flourished through the succeeding two hundred years. Afterward, when penal laws obliged them to lurk in caverns and worship God in private, they were distinguished by a variety of names, and a succession of them continued till the reformation.” Soon after, another large secession was made in North Africa, called Donatists. Crispin says they held the views of the Novatians in the following points: “1. For purity of church members, by asserting that none ought to be admitted into the church but such as are visibly true believers and true saints. 2. For purity of church discipline. 3. For the independency of each church; and 4. They baptized again those whose first baptism they had reason to doubt.” It is demonstrably clear that this sect, these “faithful and true witnesses,” lived all through the middle ages down to the reformation, though bearing different names in different countries: such as Novatians, Donatists, Paulicians, Petrobrussians, Henricians, Josephists, Arnoldists, Waldenses, Lollards, and, lastly, Mennonites. They were never permitted to bear their present name, Baptists, " until after their legal toleration in England in 1688." These important historic facts have been most carefully and wickedly suppressed. Pedo-Baptist historians have wilfully ignored them, and withheld from us the dues which even infidel writers have given. These Christian chroniclers of the church of Christ, claiming an origin for themselves no higher than the sixteenth century, have jeeringly accused the Baptists of having sprung from the Munster-insurrectionists of Germany in 1533-'4. This, with the Roger Williams origin in America, is a libel written by pedo-Baptist pens, and echoed from the pulpit by striplings and tyros a thousand times. In all cases of controversy, it is used as the argumentum ad hominem. It is the reserved fire for every slanderous ranter against us. We rejoice there are a few exceptions. Out of their mouths will we condemn them. The distinguished pedo-Baptist historian, Mosheim, a bitter enemy to the Baptists, says: 6. The true origin of that sect which acquired the name of Anabaptists, by their administering anew the rite of baptism to those who came over to their communion, and derived that of Mennotists from that famous man, to whom they owe the greatest part of their present felicity, IS HID IN THE REMOTE DEPTHS OF ANTIQUITY, and is consequently extremely
difficult to be ascertained.” Volume 4, page 427. Zuingulius, the Swiss reformer and cotemporary with Luther, says: “The institution of Anabaptism is no novelty, but for three hundred years has caused great disturbance in the church." In 1819 the King of Holland selected two of the most distinguished pedo-Baptists to draw up for the use of the government a history of the “origin of Dutch Baptists.” Dr. Zpeig, professor of theology in the University of Groningen, and Dr. Dermont, the king's chaplain, were the men. Did they report Munster as their birth-place? Hear them. “The Mennonites are descended from the tolerably pure, evangelical Waldenses, who were driven by persecution into various countries; and who, during the latter part of the twelfth century, fled into Flanders, and into the provinces of Holland and Zealand, where they lived simple and exemplary lives. They were therefore in existence long before the Reformed Church of the Netherlands." Again they say, “We have now seen that the Baptists, who were formerly called Anabaptists, and in later times Mennonites, were the original Waldenses, and who, long in the history of the church, received the honor of that origin. ON THIS ACCOUNT THE BAPTISTS MAY BE CONSIDERED THE ONLY CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY WHICH HAS STOOD SINCE THE DAYS OF THE APOSTLES; AND AS A CHRISTIAN SOCIETY WHICH HAS PRESERVED PURE THE DOCTRINES OF THE GOSPEL THROUGH ALL AGES.”
May we not hope that a brighter day is dawning, when pedo-Baptist professors of theology and doctors of divinity, openly proclaim in the ears of kings and the world, that Baptists are the only true descendants of the apostles, the ONLY church "which has preserved pure the doctrines of the gospel through all ages." Give publicity to these facts, rescued from oblivion to which Pedo-baptism has sought to assign them, and let them stop the mouths of "false accusers," and cause "every tongue to confess” the true origin of Baptists. “Their rock is not as our rock, our enemies themselves being judges.”
But what was true of Baptists in the days of Paul, is true now. They are the "sect every where spoken against.” Strict adherance [sic] to the Scriptures, refusal to engraft Judaism upon Christianity, and a steady rejection of the “tradition of the elders," brought upon the primitive sect contempt,
persecution and death. The very same causes have, in all ages, afflicted their descendants with the same curses. You, my brethren, have a noble ancestry in martyrology. A distinguished writer* has recently published to the world, and challenged refutation, that all the martyrs of the first three centuries, estimated at three millions, were Baptists, with one solitary exception - "Cyprian of Carthage, the father of Pedo-baptism." The following is one of the canons of the Council of Carthage, A. D. 414. “We will that whosoever denies that little children, by baptism, ARE FREED FROM PERDITION AND ETERNALLY SAVED, that they be accursed." About the same time, re-baptism (falsely so called) was forbidden throughout the Roman empire, under penalty of death.
From the 3rd to the 15th centuries, all men were commanded, under severe penalties, to search out, report and deliver to the rack and stake, all of that “flagicious heresy." The Reformation itself, did not extinguish the fires built by Rome for our forefathers. A part of an edict of the Zuinglian Church, published at Zurich in 1530, reads: “ for we will, according to law, punish with death, all the Anabaptists and those that adhere to them.” + About this time the earth was crimsoned with the blood of Baptists. The Reformers** themselves, waged a war of extermination against them.
Even in Protestant England bones have been disinterred three years after burial, and burnt to ashes, simply because they were Baptists' bones. In every country upon the globe, where this despised sect existed, have Jews, Catholics, and Protestants, with one consent, united to punish and extinguish them from the face of the earth. The demon of persecution followed them even to the new world. The Congregationalists of the North, and the Episcopalians of the South, thought they were doing God service in persecuting this sect even to bonds and imprisonments. Truly is it the "sect everywhere spoken against!” Why this universal hatred and persecuting spirit? Their refusal to acknowledge of divine origin, and practice as a law of Christ's kingdom, that
* J. N. Brown, Prel. Essay to Bap. Mar. p. 11.
+ Benedict His. Baptists p. 86.
** “Luther, Melancthon, Zuingle, Bucer, Bullinger, Calvin, and others abroad; at home (England,) Cranmer, Latimer, Ridley, Barnes, Philpot, Becon, Turner, Veron, and many more.” Strug. and Triumphs, Relig. Lib. p. 100.
This “part and pillar of Popery” has filled more dungeons, loaded more racks, planted more stakes, kindled more fires, and roasted more Christians, than any other thing in Christendom. The blood of millions and millions of martyrs cries terribly against it to-day! Thank God, its days are being numbered! May the celebrated maxim of Chillingworth soon be universally adopted in practice as well as theory: "the Bible and the Bible alone, is the religion of Protestants.” In this land of civil and religious liberty, however, freedom to worship God according to the dictates of conscience, is a primary statute. Hence only there are no fires of persecution against us. But still we are "every where spoken against.” Because we will not contravene the great law of believer's baptism - the prerequisite to communion in Christ's kingdom - and admit the unbaptized to the eucharist, we are termed “selfish, uncharitable and bigoted.” But in The eloquent language of Dr. Welch, we reply, “If to adhere to truth, if lo prefer allegiance to the throne of Christ, if to regard the integrity of His institutions, and the purity of His word, be sectarianism, then let sectarianism be written on my brow, and underneath it, write the name of bigot, and I'll wear it till I die.”
How often have we heard the defamatory charge: “The Baptists are an obscure, illiterate sect.” If it is thus meant that we have no literature, and no scholars, we indignantly repel the charge. The whole New Testament is Baptistic literature. The authors of all its epistles were Baptists. All the Christian writers of the second century were Baptists. If the middle ages are wanting in Baptistic literature, it is because the same demon spirit that deprived Baptists of their churches, their property, their liberty, and their lives, destroyed their schools and burnt their books. To-day, they would not suffer by a comparison in scholars and literature, in all its various departments, with any sect or people on earth.* In conclusion, we remark, that the Baptists, though always and every where, the subjects of the most shameful, ruthless persecution, have never retaliated. "Soul-liberty” has ever been their motto. Their creed utterly forbids proscription and intolerance.
* We beg leave to refer the reader to a masterly little tract, “ Popular Charges against the Baptists refuted,” by Rev. J. B. Jeter, D. D.
Thirty years ago the government of Holland offered them the support of the State. "It was politely, but firmly declined as inconsistent with their fundamental principles.”
Roger Williams, a Baptist, to whom the world have not as yet awarded the proper meed of praise, was the father of religious liberty upon the American continent. From his mind were evolved those great principles of civil and religious freedom since incorporated into our government. Let us guard this sacred boon, for which our Baptist fathers for 1800 years have bled and died, with a jealous eye.
The principles of the Baptists are destined to triumph.- They are the principles of that Church of which Messiah said, "the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." For 1800 years they have withstood all the bulls, dungeons, racks and fires, which Rome and Protestant hierarchies could command. They have fully proven themselves to be of God. Hoary-headed and iron-hearted establishments are tottering and falling before their onward march in other lands. In our own happy country, trophies to their power are numerous and rapidly increasing. An accurate writer has recently stated, from a careful collation of facts, that the number of members received into the Baptist churches for some years past, from other denominations, exceeds 2,000 annually; and that the number of ministers so received by change of conviction, is equal to one for every week in the year. In addition to these, their own converts number about fifty thousand annually.
Let me most heartily congratulate you, my brethren, upon your renowned ancestry, and the divinity and success of your principles. Act worthy of the former, and be true to the latter. Let your prayers, your efforts, your sympathies and your money, freely flow for their universal propagation and triumph; and may the kingdoms of the world soon become the kingdoms of our Lord and his Christ.
[From Henry Keeling, editor, The Baptist Preacher Journal, October, 1855, pp. 181-192: via Google Books On-line.